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Driving home

Sure, driving stories are a dime a dozen. If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone complain about traffic or bad driving, I could pave the street with them (the nickels). They might be kind of slippery in the rain though.

But this is more than just a story about driving. This the kind of story that leads to prejudgements… when an anecdote seemingly confirms a stereotype. I’m speaking of New York drivers.

I’ve never lived in New York. In fact, it’s in my blood (Boston by birth) to despise everything New York. Accordingly, I’ve never visited New York. But like some sportswriters have said, “you don’t have to have played every sport to know when they’re played badly,” I can see enough from afar to know it’s not my Mecca. Sure, it’s a bit of a unique place. It’s got some culture, places to eat, a diverse mixture of people… yada yada yada. Who likes to be distracted when they’re grousing by a few contradicting facts?

Lets get back to more comfortable ground, supposition. One thing that has been pounded into me since an early age: New York drivers are a surly lot. Not that Boston drivers are much better… my dad used to like to say that the first rule in Boston driving is, “never make eye contact with the other drivers… it’s a sign of weakness.” None the less, I’ve always been led to believe that New York drivers had no peer when it came to offensive driving.

By contrast, west-central Florida driving is mostly a civil affair. I attribute it to the mild mannered mid-westerners who colonized Florida in mid-1980’s. It’s been my experience that its rare to be faced with a wall of traffic, and NOT have someone stop to create space to let you out of a jam (like trying to get out of a parking lot situated too close to a traffic light that always backs up). This morning I was behind an older gentleman who interpreted a little space between cars as a similar gesture, and began to inch his way out. This movement provoked the cat-like reflexes of a second gentleman sitting in traffic… who proved to be no gentleman at all. His big SUV lurched forward suddenly, effectively cutting off the gentleman in front of me, and trapping us both in the Walgreens’ Pharmacy parking lot… doomed to await another light cycle, and a second chance at freedom. The gentleman in front of me rolled down his window to give voice to his disappointment, followed by the SUV guy doing the same. In short order, they were arguing animately about who had the larger posterior region (each insisting it was the other).

By the way this entry started, you probably know what’s coming next (since I drew you a map and all)… the guy in traffic pulled forward when the light changed, and he had New York license plates.

And so it goes. New York drivers could be a wonderful group of human beings. They could be courteous to a fault, but because of a few isolated experiences I’ve colored them all with my broad brush. I’m so ashamed.

(No, not really.)

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  1. I’ve never been to New York either, but I have been to Boston. The driving there terrified me. Wow people move fast regardless of what’s ahead! I can relate to your dad’s comment.

    I’ll share one cute Boston story with you. I was in a cab and, upon arriving at my destination, was told my fare was free. You’re Canadian was the reason given. Apparently, my cabbie was often in Canada and felt he was treated very well, so Canadians got free rides in his cab. How did you know I’m Canadian? I asked.

    He looked at me with a gleam in his eye. How do you spell Canada? C-eh?-N-eh?-D-eh?

    Apparently, I had slipped a few times. :-)

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